Monday Musings: Women in Fiction

mondaymusings

My friend who is a cataloger at a small public library sometimes likes to share the titles of particularly outrageous romance novels. He catalogs a LOT of romance novels. I am always surprised by just how ridiculous these books sound, and how crazy-creative the covers and titles can be.

However, I often wonder what people think of the popularity of these books. They are widely read, widely circulated at public libraries, and they are almost exclusively read/bought/borrowed by women.

Books like these:

The Duke Is Mine (Fairy Tales, #3) Unclaimed (Turner, #2) Ravishing the Heiress (Fitzhugh Trilogy, #2) At Your Pleasure

 What do these books have to say about women? Women like reading and writing these books. Meanwhile, we’re telling girls they should be reading books about strong female protagonists and books that empower women and show that they don’t need a man’s control in their life. Meanwhile, we’re telling authors that they should be writing books that empower women. 

Are these books empowering? Why or why not?

You know what my friend said? “I have too much respect for women to be a feminist.” And I 100% agree with him.

And do you know what IS empowering? Letting women make their own decisions. Letting them read what they want and write what they want and enjoy what they like. Whether it’s Ravishing the Heiress or The Hunger Games, women like what they like and you should let them do so. 

 

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13 thoughts on “Monday Musings: Women in Fiction

      • Ah, okay, I can definitely see that being an issue. But a lot of women like reading those kinds of stories. Should authors/publishers change the stories to be less misogynistic?

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      • Well, literature obviously influences culture. So if people are fed misogynist literature, nothing will ever change and the feminist movement will be for nothing. It’s as if homophobic literature became wildly popular between not only women but men too. It’d be devastating and so damaging to thousands of people as those ideals are being planted in our brains like infectious seeds. Don’t you think?
        I love having these kind of conversations too!

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      • Well, I don’t actually agree that literature is planting misogynist ideas in the brains of readers – I guess I give readers more credit than that. I think the readers can determine when bad relationships and inequality are in their fiction, and not let it influence their own lives or behavior.

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      • That’d be the ideal though but I believe most of these novels’ readers are middle aged women who have previous misogynist ideals from their childhood and these are reinforcing those ideals. Some won’t fall for it but some do. And those that fall are still damaging to the rest of society. You’re a strong minded person and you know better but not everyone is like that, there are very gullible people out there.

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      • Okay. I can definitely see books reinforcing someone’s bad ideals, but not in like, a culture-wide scale.

        it’s kind of like the violent video games argument: I don’t think video games influence people to be violent, no matter how “gullible” or easily influenced they are. I think that people who already have violent tendencies or enjoy violence will enjoy violence video games and other media. The same can be said about books and movies. I guess I think people are less gullible than you do!

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  1. I identify as feminist but totally agree that being able to own your choices is empowering. Some of these books may have problematic relationships, but I think it does girls a disservice to say something shouldn’t be read because it is problematic. Women and girls are smart and have the ability to enjoy something while recognizing its problems.

    Also, I think some romance books aren’t meant to say “this is what I want in a relationship” but are more an exploration of fantasies. Fantasy is a safe place we go to explore experiences in our mind that don’t necessarily have a place in real life. Sort of like dreams, I think they are necessary and a healthy way of exploring something about yourself without judgment.

    That being said, I think there’s a difference between telling people what to read/write and challenging them to explore other angles. Our society does have a way of setting “normals” that are hurtful to various groups of people. I think if we challenge people to think outside the box then we get better books. But the answer is always more books, not restricting them. We get further by expanding the playing field, not by moving the boundaries around.

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    • You make a really good point about boundaries – I’ve never thought of it that way. Setting restrictions on writing isn’t a good idea – but encouraging explorations of other things and writing outside what is considered the norm is a great idea.

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